At this stage of the proceedings, pretty much everyone has an opinion about the band KISS, and it seems — more often than not — it’s a negative one. That’s fine. But for all their insufferably avaricious shenanigans, KISS achieved things that simply cannot be taken away from them.
One such achievement, in my opinion, would be helping cement the significance of the live album. They were already three studio LPs into their frankly flailing career before Alive finally captured the bombastic blitz of the live KISS experience and put them solidly on the map. And Alive was just the perfect document. To this day, it is routinely cited as a landmark album.
There's an aspect of Alive that's always struck me (and one I’d also credit KISS for inspiring), that being the decision to feature the fabled fan shot on the back cover. In case you're unfamiliar, here it is....
Amidst a throng of curiously disinterested-looking Midwestern heshers, two fans proudly display their homemade KISS banner. Little did they know, I’d suspect, that this incidental moment would be forever immortalized on what was to become the back cover of one of most celebrated live albums of all time.
Now, once again, if you think KISS is a load of ridiculous bullshit, that’s entirely fine, and you’re doubtlessly not alone in that capacity. I still happen to cherish my KISS records, regardless of the band's innumerable lapses into abject douchebaggery since about, oh, 1979. But ever since I first laid eyes on the back cover of Alive — and I’m dead sure a nation of music geeks can empathize with this — I’ve always been jealous of those hirsute, banner-brandishing fans. I mean, how goddamn cool would that be, right?
Over the years as a rabid rockhead, believe it or not, I’ve actually come close to that laughably unrealistic goal. In 2000, my good friend Rob B. and I flew over to London to see a couple of anniversary shows by The Wonder Stuff (yes, you read that correctly). Unsurprisingly, the band released a live album recorded at those shows shortly thereafter. I remember Rob excitedly calling me and telling me to check out the front cover of the resulting document, that being Cursed with Insincerity. Rob seemed to think that one of the figures depicted on that sleeve was him (we were indeed pressed against the front barriers for the first gig). Under closer scrutiny, it didn’t seem like a match, but we can’t be totally sure.
Meanwhile, I managed to work my way into at least one litearlly-blink-and-you’ll-fucking-miss-me moment on a piece of output by my very favorite band, that being — of course — the mighty Killing Joke.
Ten years back, Killing Joke followed the Wonder Stuff’s lead and played a pair of 25th anniversary shows at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Being the obsessed fanboy I was (and remain), I KNEW I had to be there. Mercifully, both my wife and my office empathized, and I was let off my leash for a few days to go and pay homage to my favorite band on their home turf. You can imagine how excited I was.
The trip was a complete blast and the two concerts were drunkenly festive religious experiences. Put simply, it was everything I’d ever wanted. Apart from being scarily hassled by U.S. customs upon my return home to New York City (a long story for another day), it was just a perfectly great time.
Sure enough, some months later, Killing Joke released XXV Gathering: Let Us Prey as a sumptuous live album and an accompanying DVD, culling a rousing performance from bits of the two nights I attended.
As you can well imagine, I snapped up copies of both the album and DVD immediately upon release, eager to not only relive the experience, but check to see — on the very slimmest of chances — if I was somehow captured in the mix.
If you can hear me hoarsely sing along at any point on the live album, then you assuredly have sharper ears than I. But, imagine my glee upon finding myself FLEETINGLY featured in the crowd just before the band launched into “Wardance.”
If you’re quick, you can spot me at about nine seconds into this cilp.
In case you missed it, here I am (my face obscured — naturally — by someone’s fist).
Not exactly the back cover of Alive, but I’ll take it.